Five living composers are represented on ‘Five Danish Piano Trios’, three of whom studied with Ib Nørholm, one of whom holidays with Ib Nørholm and one of whom is Ib Nørholm. The clearest link to Gade & Co is Svend Hvidfelt Nielsen’s Divertimento (1993), which could be a Romantic piano trio in modernist harmonic disguise; its sensitive ‘Elegy’ gets a touching, gentle performance from Trio Ismena, who probably have the edge on their compatriots in terms of tone and shading. We also get Jesper Koch’s Piano Trio (2011), based on shapes and games, and, from Nørholm himself, Trio No 3 (1999), lyrical and angular, its energy contained.
Lars Hegaard’s Like a Cube of Silence (2010) is direct and refreshing, like a structure whose parts you can see, music slightly apart from Denmark’s modernist establishment in expression yet absolutely sharing its clarity and openness. But the standout work comes from Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. He compiled his Moments musicaux (2006) from bits of Schubert, piling quotations on top of one another after he’d found that he’d ‘destroyed Schubert by cutting him up’. The result is typical of this composer’s new simplicity: jagged, playful, sometimes ugly, often unspeakably beautiful, always full of a natural, genre-less musical impulse. And when all’s said and done, Gudmundsen-Holmgreen does underline Schubert’s simple harmonic profundity, such as when the piano loops a sequence of chords from Schubert’s Moments in the last movement like an organ accompanying an Anglican psalm chant, stutterings and figurations typical of PGH fidgeting away up above. The piece is worth the price of the disc alone, and suggests that Nielsen’s legacy of individuality has eclipsed Gade’s ideas of conformity when it comes to Denmark’s most worthy 21st-century music.